Thursday, January 31, 2008

Are PLUG Independent Music Awards Very Indie?

PLUG has been doing annual "Independent Music Awards" for the past few years and they have a category for best college/non-commercial station of the year. Their advisory board of up to 300 music fans selects the nominees, which must be a daunting task considering how many great college radio stations there are. This year's nominees (you can vote now and find out about the winners after the March 6th awards ceremony) are: KALX (Berkeley, CA), KCMP (Northfield, MN), KCRW (Santa Monica, CA), KDHX (St. Louis, MO), KEXP (Seattle, WA), KUSF (San Francisco), KXLU (Los Angeles), WFMU (Jersey City, NJ), WLUW (Chicago), WNYU (New York), WRAS (Atlanta, GA), and WXPN (Philadelphia). Seems like a list heavily skewed towards the coasts...and a list that doesn't feel entirely "indie" in nature to me.

The 2005, 2006 and 2007 winner for best college station was KEXP (formerly KCMU), a station licensed to the University of Washington, but since 2001 engaged in a partnership with the Experience Music Project. As a result of that partnership they changed their call letters, got a spiffy new studio and equipment, and obtained a huge amount of financial support. Good for so many college stations are suffering due to lack of funding. Yet, should they really be in the same category as college stations without major financial backing? It's notable that some of the other nominees are also big-budget stations and at least one (KCRW) is a public radio affiliate, which also falls into an area that I don't consider independent.

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